BALTIMORE – Kyle Gibson had been looking forward to Monday since the day he was sent down to the minors earlier this month. But not because he expected to get his old job back.
With the Rochester Red Wings having the day off, Gibson had booked a flight to St. Louis to see his wife and 3-year-old daughter for the first time in almost three weeks. Instead, he earned his first victory since Sept. 13, the beneficiary of the Twins’ season-high offensive explosion in a 14-7 victory over the Orioles.
Hey, maybe the family can reunite in the Twin Cities instead.
“We’ll see if I can rebook that ticket,” Gibson said with a laugh after a so-so six-run, five-inning performance that actually raised his ERA from 8.20 to 8.62. “I think they understood why I couldn’t make it.”
Yep, he had to go inspire his teammates to pound out 21 hits, the most they have had in three years. Or at least, that’s what Miguel Sano believes. Gibson gave up five runs in the second inning, but when he bounced back to keep pitching, and particularly when he struck out the side in the fifth inning, “that’s when we were going to show who we are,” said Sano, who moved into a tie for the American League lead in RBI with his four-hit, one-homer, three-RBI night. “He just kept battling. After Gibson came back and struck out those three hitters, that’s when we started going.”
Well, it was a little bit before that, but whatever the cause, the eruption was something to behold.
All nine Twins collected at least one hit, and six had more than one. Jorge Polanco smacked a career-high four hits, just like Sano, and Joe Mauer had his first three-hit game since Aug. 16. Max Kepler smashed a long home run and drove in four runs; Sano cracked his 11th of the year, and Eduardo Escobar knocked in three runs, too.
“We stayed positive. We knew we could come back,” Polanco said. “Once we knocked [Orioles starter] Ubaldo Jimenez out of the game, everybody got very energized.”
The Twins clobbered Jimenez and two relievers for four runs in the fifth inning, and six more in the sixth. They even scored a run when righthander Stefan Crichton simply dropped the ball while winding up, a balk that brought home Escobar from third base.
All those runs added up to the Twins’ fourth win in their last five games and their seventh road win in their last eight away from home. Perhaps most remarkable statistic: The Twins are now 12-5 on the road, the second-best mark in the major leagues. Exactly one year ago, the Twins had only 11 wins — total.
It was a raucous party for the hitters, but now the Twins must wrestle with what to do about Gibson, whose return was hardly impressive on paper. Five of the six runs he allowed came with two outs, a problem plaguing him all season, he walked four and struck out five, and he managed an 0-1 count against only seven of the 26 hitters he faced (another five put his first pitch in play). Adam Jones blasted a mile-high home run on a hanging slider, his 125th at Camden Yards, passing Rafael Palmeiro for most ever by a player in this ballpark.
True, the five-run inning wouldn’t have happened if Brian Dozier had turned a routine double play, and the Twins had other chances to snuff that rally, “but I’ve got to make pitches to get out of that, too,” Gibson said.
But the Twins are short of starting pitchers, especially with Phil Hughes going on the disabled list Monday, so Gibson figures to get another chance on Saturday.
“We don’t have a lot of starting options right now,” Molitor said. “He’s on the roster, and we’re not planning to make any changes here in the short term.”